How to Check for Card Skimmers at Gas Pumps and ATMs

Identity thieves are always looking for new ways to steal your account information. One of the most popular ways is skimming. It’s easy to get fooled by skimming, but it’s easy to spot too — you just have to be on the look out every time you use a gas pump or ATM.

What is Skimming?

When you use a credit or debit card to pay for gas at the pump or to use an ATM, there’s a card reader — the slot you slide your card in and out of. A skimming device is something that looks identical to the card reader, but stores your card information. Identity thieves will place this skimming device over the real card reader, the device will store the card information of the people who use it, and then the thieves will come back and retrieve the device. Here’s an example:

Card Skimming Device
This is an example of a card skimming device. It’s identical to the original card reader. Photo via Washington State Department of Financial Institutions.

How to Spot Skimmers and Protect Yourself

Before you use your card at a gas station or ATM, always check the card reader. Just grab it and wiggle it to see if it’s loose. If the reader is loose, do not use it. This should be a routine you do every single time you use a card at a gas pump or ATM. If you ever encounter a skimming device, contact the ATM owner and the local police as soon as possible.